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Fruit & Veg

Name:

Tomatoes

Variety:

 

Family

Fruit

Availability:

Year round

Character:

Varieties:


The range of specialty and pre-packed tomatoes has increased dramatically recently. Most tomato varieties are of Dutch origin and are selected for flavour, quality, colour and size. There are a lot of varieties of standard tomatoes, however these tend not to be identified at purchase.

Vine tomatoes
Tomatoes on the vine, or on the truss, tomatoes are enjoying a huge surge in popularity. Small, medium and large tomatoes are sold on the truss. There are many different vine varieties, as a general rule vine varieties generally have a very intense flavour.

Cherry or cocktail tomatoes
These have a sweet intense flavour and are particularly popular with children. Several different varieties are on the market. Coloured red or yellow, the shapes can vary from round, oval to pear shaped. Small plum tomatoes are particularly sweet and higher in acid.

Low acid tomatoes:
Often called acid free, these have firmer flesh and fewer pips and less juice. They are generally oval, and often misshapen and unevenly coloured with a more pinky colour than ripe red. These come in differing shapes and sizes. Levels of acid vary with variety and no tomato is entirely acid free.

Plum tomatoes:
These tomatoes are a fleshy fruit, oval or plum shaped and usually medium sized. Many plum varieties are low in acid, although not all. Large plum varieties are often referred to as Roma.

Outdoor tomatoes:

These make up a very small percentage (around 1%) of the total tomato crop and tend to be less firm than greenhouse grown tomatoes and have a lumpier and flatter shape

Use:

Tomatoes are very versatile and easily prepared. Eat them raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked on pizzas, in a pasta sauce, in casseroles, grilled or baked.

Quality Points:

Choose smooth, firm and plump tomatoes with an even colour and no blemishes

Storage:

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Tomatoes will ripen in these conditions. You can speed up ripening by putting them in a paper bag. Do not refrigerate unless they are over ripe. Refrigerated tomatoes do not have the full flavour of tomatoes stored at room temperature.

Preparation:

Sometimes recipes might suggest you remove the skin and even the seeds of the tomato. Unless this is for a very fine sauce.

Cooking Method:

Tomatoes are great in soups, omelettes, roulades. Tomatoes preserve well and are easily frozen and bottled. They are delicious when made into homemade sauces, chutneys and are particularly nice when sun dried. Tomatoes are complemented by many herbs especially basil.

History:

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family along with potatoes, egg plant, tobacco and peppers. They are all distantly related to deadly nightshade and for this reason were for a long time thought to be poisonous.

Nutrition:

Tomatoes are a very good source of vitamins C and good source of fibre, vitamins A and B group. They also provide some vitamin E, folic acid, potassium and other trace elements. Protein and dietary fibre are also present.

Comment:

Tomatoes are native to South America and were originally grown for their decorative purposes. The tomato is actually a fruit but is considered a vegetable because of its uses. Recent research has indicated that lycopene, a carotenoid with potent antioxidant effects which is found in raw tomatoes, may be responsible for the protection against cancers. This is possibly the reason why people living in the Mediterranean who eat lots of tomatoes have a lower rate of some cancers.